Assault On Precinct 13 is a big cult favorite in the John Carpenter fil­mog­ra­phy and it has appro­pri­ate­ly enjoyed a nice life on home video: it was a VHS rental store sta­ple and has enjoyed a cou­ple of DVD releas­es plus a semi-recent blu-ray release from Image.  Thus, some fans were a bit sur­prised when Scream Factory when they announced their blu-ray release — but the results are anoth­er qual­i­ty addi­tion to their cat­a­log, boast­ing strong A/V qual­i­ty and a pret­ty com­pre­hen­sive set of extras.

First things first: this disc sports a gor­geous high-def­i­n­i­tion trans­fer: the detail lev­el is sharp as a tack, the col­ors are rich and it does well by the night pho­tog­ra­phy and dim exte­ri­ors that dom­i­nate the film’s sec­ond half.  Audio options for the trans­fer include a 2.0 mono and 5.1 stereo remix, both loss­less, plus a score-only track.  The 5.1 track was lis­tened to for this review and it’s pow­er­ful stuff, giv­ing real heft to the gun­play sounds and bring­ing sur­round-speak­er depth (and a whole lot of sub­woofer-shak­ing bass) to Carpenter’s spar­tan syn­th score.

AOP13-bluFans will be hap­py to hear that this disc boasts plen­ty of extras that col­lect spe­cial fea­tures from past edi­tions while adding a few new ones to the mix.  It all begins with a vin­tage com­men­tary track from writer/director John Carpenter (it sounds like it dates back to the laserdisc era as it ref­er­ences a change-over to “Side 2” at the mid­way point).

It’s a solid track that finds the film­mak­er assess­ing his choic­es while he lays out all man­ner of triv­ia and behind-the-sce­nes mem­o­ries.  He points out some in-jokes and the film’s fre­quent Howard Hawks ref­er­ences, reveals how he had a 24-hour day of shoot­ing on this film, dis­cuss­es the pos­i­tive respon­se it got in England on its ini­tial release and how the low bud­get required him to do his own foley work with two oth­er crew mem­bers.  Fans of the direc­tor will enjoy this relaxed but infor­ma­tive track.

This disc also boasts a new com­men­tary track with pro­duc­tion design­er Tommy Lee Wallace, mod­er­at­ed by Michael Felsher.  Wallace did a num­ber of oth­er jobs on the film, includ­ing scout­ing loca­tions, cut­ting sound effects and even a bit of edit­ing on the action sequences, so he’s in a unique posi­tion to provide a lot of good nuts and bolts infor­ma­tion.  He reveals all the film’s loca­tions and gives plen­ti­ful detail on the tricks of the trade involved in cre­at­ing the film’s cen­tral precinct set.

As a child­hood friend and long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor to Carpenter, Wallace is also able to speak with author­i­ty about the director’s inspi­ra­tions and cre­ative choic­es — and this leads to an inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion of a cer­tain noto­ri­ous shoot­ing scene that occurs ear­ly in the film.  Felsher asks the right ques­tions and steers Wallace into inter­est­ing ter­ri­to­ry lat­er in the com­men­tary, includ­ing some swell anec­dotes about The Fog and El Diablo.  All in all, it’s a nice sup­ple­ment to Carpenter’s com­men­tary track.

Carried over from the Image edi­tions of this title is a 2002 Q&A ses­sion with Carpenter and actor Austin Stoker that was con­duct­ed at the American Cinematheque.  Both men are in good humor as they are received enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly by a crowd of fan­boys.  Carpenter cov­ers some mate­ri­al from the com­men­tary but also tells a fun sto­ry about how the threat of an X rat­ing from the MPAA was dealt with.  Stoker most­ly sits on the side­li­nes but does get to answer one good ques­tion about cast­ing.  Carpenter is very good in the­se Q&A sce­nar­ios so this seg­ment is pret­ty fun to watch.

Those who might have want­ed to hear more from Stoker in the afore­men­tioned Q&A will be hap­py to hear that he gets a new solo inter­view on this disc enti­tled “Bishop Under Siege.”  The actor reflects on how his stage career led to his role in this film, how his expe­ri­ence with guns while serv­ing in the Army pre­pared him for the shootouts and offers thoughts on his var­i­ous cast mem­bers.  His gen­er­al sense of good cheer makes for pleas­ant view­ing.

There is also a new inter­view with actor Nancy Loomis Kyes called “The Sassy Girl.”  She talks about how her act­ing work in stu­dent films led her into Carpenter and Wallace’s orbit and offers an appre­ci­a­tion for Carpenter’s west­erns-influ­enced style on this film.  She also offers mem­o­ries of Halloween, The Fog and Halloween III as well as reveal­ing why she left act­ing.  Her com­ments have an intro­spec­tive tone, mak­ing her an inter­est­ing con­trast to Stoker.

The disc is round­ed out by a series of pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als.  A two-min­ute the­atri­cal trail­er gives the movie a good dri­ve-in style “hard sell” that accen­tu­ates the film’s action and the Death Wish-esque vibe of urban malaise.  There are also two 30-sec­ond radio spots that draw from the nar­ra­tion of this trail­er, under­scored with the film’s elec­tron­ic music.  Finally, there is an ani­mat­ed image gallery that con­sists most­ly of black-and-white stills and pro­mo pho­tos.  Fans of the film should note that the Image DVD and blu-ray edi­tions of this film have a more involved image gallery that also con­tains script pages and sto­ry­boards: it’s not includ­ed here so own­ers of those ear­lier edi­tions may want to hang onto them to retain that extra.

In short, this is anoth­er strong edi­tion to Scream Factory’s John Carpenter reper­toire and its com­bo of a strong trans­fer and infor­ma­tive extras make it well worth the price for the director’s fans.